County signs two union contracts

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday approved labor contracts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 65, representing the Nobles County Highway Department; and with Law Enforcement ...

WORTHINGTON - Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday approved labor contracts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 65, representing the Nobles County Highway Department; and with Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc. Local 163, representing sheriffs deputies.

The union contracts included a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employees of 1 percent in 2015, 2.25 percent in 2016 and 2.5 percent in 2017.
Additionally, the county approved memorandums of understanding with AFSCME, representing public health, and the Teamsters, who represent courthouse and library employees and family services. Those MOU’s sought extensions - AFSCME to June 1 and both Teamsters groups to April 1 - to continue contract negotiations.
Commissioner Gene Metz said it appears that union negotiations with the jailers union may enter arbitration.
In other action, the board:

  • Tabled action on bids for replacement of the Nobles County Government Center’s stair replacement. Steve Johnson, of Vetter-Johnson Architects, has contacted the low bidder, Wilcon. The St. James-based company said it is willing to hold the $438,000 bid and also work on ways to reduce the cost of the project.

Commissioner Don Linssen asked if there was guidance on how much repair work could be done before the county would be required to be ADA-compliant. Johnson said the two biggest issues are the railings and the lip that sticks out over each step.
“I have deep, deep concerns (about the cost), but I do think the handrail (repairs) would be a step in the right direction,” Linssen said.
Commissioner Marv Zylstra cautioned board members on doing the work piecemeal.
“I’m a little bit cautious (of) piecemeal - we spend $200,000 and we still don’t address the safety issue, which is the falls that have been occurring,” Zylstra said.

  • Learned the county received a $500,000 check from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement of repairs made to the short-line railroad owned by the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail Authority.
  • Approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Services for an adult mental health grant of $123,691. This is the same amount that was received in 2014.
  • Accepted a 2015 Medical Reserve Corps grant of $3,500 from the National Association of Community Health Organization. The grant will support maintaining an active corps, such as training for volunteers. The corps can be activated for emergencies such as mass immunization clinics.
  • Approved a request to dissolve the county’s participation in a joint powers agreement with the Red Rock Ridge Day Treatment Center. The center is no longer considered a day treatment center, although students from within Nobles County still attend the programs. Those students are referred to Red Rock Ridge from their school district.
  • Denied a request from a county employee to receive the employer PERA contribution after a leave of absence and subsequent employee repayment into PERA. Nobles County Human Resources Director Sue Luing said most Minnesota counties don’t pay back the employer portion after an employee has returned to work. The exception is for persons in the military, who can receive the employer contribution if they pay into PERA after returning from a leave of absence.
  • Received a department update on administration from County Administrator Tom Johnson. Johnson reported that commissioners will begin utilizing tablets and electronic agendas, which will eliminate hundreds of sheets of paper and assembly time for each county board meeting. The devices have built-in wifi and may be used by commissioners at other county-related meetings they attend.

Johnson also updated commissioners on upgrades on doors to county-owned buildings to allow for card key entry, and said NEON continues to discuss broadband opportunities.

  • Announced the February Excellence in Performance certificate will be awarded to Sarah Gertsema, a correctional officer. Gertsema was unable to attend the meeting and will be recognized at a later date.
  • Appointed Zylstra and Metz as delegates to a special committee of the Nobles/Jackson Drainage Authority to address concerns regarding a legislative proposal for drainage. Commissioner Matt Widboom was named the alternate. The legislative proposal pertains to giving watersheds the ability to return ditch authority status to counties once an issue has been addressed. At this time, watershed districts become the ditch authority after improvements or redetermination of benefits have been made.
  • Appointed Doug White of Fulda to serve on the Developmental Achievement Center board of directors.
  • Approved an application for St. Kilian’s parish to conduct a raffle.
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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